Posted by: billpurdue | February 16, 2015

Mentioning the war

There’s hardly a day goes by when the First or Second World War isn’t mentioned somewhere in the media. Such is the continuing interest in military history that many novels being published today still have war as their theme. One such novel is “Villa Triste” by Lucretia Grindle, which is a detective novel set in Italy – Florence to be more precise. The motive for the crimes being investigated has its origin in the activities of the partisans after the demise of Mussolini, but before the Allies have reached that part of Italy, after the Nazis have marched south and taken over areas which the Allies have not yet reached. In some ways this was the worst time of the war for Italians, since the former supporters of Mussolini got a boost from the occupying German forces.


The book begins in 1943 and focuses on two sisters, Isabella and Caterina Cammacio. Isabella joins the partisans and helps to smuggle escaped prisoners of the Nazis over the border, whilst Caterina, engaged to Ludovicio, a naval medic away in North Africa, prefers to become a nurse at the local hospital, plans for the wedding being put on hold.


The scene is set in 1943-4 in part one of the novel, but then in chapter 2 we jump to 2006, when Inspector Palliotti is called on to investigate three murders of men who had recently been honoured in a national ceremony for their part in helping the partisans. In the first two cases they had been shot at close range and their mouths had been stuffed with salt.


The book has a complicated plot: although the action is now in the 21st century, Palliotti discovers a diary belonging to Caterina in the house of one of the murdered men. Palliotti’s progress in the case is punctuated by quite lengthy excerpts from the diary, all of which help him to solve the case. The blurb on the cover quotes a review from the Daily Express which says that it is a “complex, enthralling thriller..” That is indeed true – you don’t have to make notes, but do pay attention! I did have to re-read some sections to make sure I knew who was who and what had happened. That’s not to say that it isn’t a page turner.


Lucretia Grindle has three other books to her name – “The Nightspinners”, a murder mystery, “The Faces of Angels”, a murder mystery set in Florence and her latest book “The Lost Daughter’. The new book is also set in Florence and also features Inspector Allessandro Palliotti and his deputy Enzo Saenz. The latter plays a bigger part in this novel, but the plot, as far as I can understand it from the blurb, is as complicated as ever.


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